David Clayton delves into iconography–specifically, the more-overlooked realm of Western iconography–in a post at New Liturgical Movement. His goal is twofold: first, to explore and educate about the tradition; second, to contribute to the ongoing revival of classical forms in certain precints today (he mentions Thomas Aquinas College as one exemplar).
Why take another look at classical art? Examining one specimen, he reasons:
The image shown here is a remarkable plate from a 13th-century German psalter. Rheinau is the town in Germany where it was created. The artist’s name is unknown. It is consistent with the iconographic prototype. The draughtsmanship is wonderful. I love the contrast between the sure smooth flow of the lines that describe the human forms, which contrast with the vigorous angular handling of those lines which describe the drapery. Artists today could learn from this, because this use of a faceting in the description of drapery helps to give the image a greater strength and less sentimental feel. Sentimentality is the scourge of modern sacred art. This device is not limited to iconographic or gothic art – even Bernini used it when he sculpted drapery in the baroque era. Note also how the Rheinau image conforms to the Western preference for patterned borders (which is not unknown but certainly less common in the Eastern variants).
Clayton promises much more on the topic when the academic year comes to an end, but you can get a head start on reading his coverage here.